Category: Uncategorized

Choosing ‘Art’ For A Living

Theatre production; Adaptation of Elena Garro’s ‘El Encanto, Tendajon Mixto’ – Mexican Embassy’s 10th anniversary celebration.

Theatre is a gem of an artform. Anyone who has seen a staged play live knows it can be likened to magic.

Kentillia Louis is an Artistic director, lecturer, manager and curriculum officer advocating for and enriching Arts and Culture in Saint Lucia. She has worked as the Artistic Director for the Walcott School’s Festival and as Director of Requiem for a Badjohn, a play staged for the first time in Saint Lucia earlier this year. She also manages the Youth Studying Performing Arts and Culture (YouthSPAC) organization, and works as a part-time lecturer at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and University of West Indies open campus, among several others gigs.

We were fortunate to have the opportunity in May of this year to pose a few questions to Kentillia on her experiences working as an Artist on a small, Caribbean island.

Q: Can you highlight the aspects of this profession you enjoy?

K: One of the things that I enjoy about being an artist in the Caribbean is that because of, I suppose, size there’s a camaraderie between us all. It doesn’t matter if it’s in Trinidad, Barbados, Grenada, Jamaica, everybody’s always willing to lend a helping hand. Always willing to try and see how they can collaborate or assist, because as much as we think we’re different, we all have similar issues.

Another thing is we have a rich culture. We have so many cultural forms that provide for the arts. We have material to create plays, to create performance styles, to use in so many different ways as stimuli for dance, drama anything. To find inspiration for anything that I do, it’s very easy, I just have to close the books, close the laptop and go out there and just observe my people, listen to the radio, listen to the music, watch the dancing and within there, something always comes up.

The good thing about our cultural forms is that it’s participatory. I mean you can go to the La Rose festival and you are not just be a spectator on the outside. Those different groupings are always very willing to include you, listen to what you have to say. So I really have enjoyed that, his is what gives me my identity and my unique approach. I’ve been able to really make sure i’m well grounded in it, in everything that I do to use it as my base.

Q: Can you highlight the challenges?

K: Always training-training and space. There are never enough spaces for training or opportunities for training – long term training I should say. There are always persons who approach me to join the group but i’m very particular about numbers. That’s why I have not increased the size past a certain point because we have a lot of young persons in Saint Lucia who are very, very talented, but they just have the raw material. What if we invested in them and helped them with the training and the exposure. As well as training them for showcasing opportunities because you can train, but you have to be trained to perform and be showcased.

We forget that not everybody starts off at the top, nobody did. Everybody had to build their way there and we have to, as a nation support them. That’s one of the major challenges, so sensitizing our public to the importance of supporting their own, even those up and coming, support them, because they will be the next big thing and it will be nice if you could be part of that experience with them.

Space has always been a problem- performance spaces. I mean right now we only have the National Cultural Center which is extremely limited and expensive. So persons who are building should put an auditorium. That’s what a lot of organizations do, and they will rent it out at a reasonable price. We can take that into consideration here. People think there are not a lot of groups but there are a lot of groups out there. They just don’t have the opportunity to perform in a proper performance space. That’s one of the major issues that we have right now.

I think as much as people understand the performing arts and culture, there is also not a respect for it and that’s one of the things I’d like to see change. That’s where your identity comes from, that’s where your sense of you comes from. We go to all of those platforms to balance our selves out when we feel angry, sad, and so forth. They’re crucial to us and our development as a person, as a society. And the respect that art should be given,it’s not being given right now. We do it as a by the way thing, we do it only as something we can use to maybe enhance the tourism product. But it’s more than that. Every society you find persons really holding on to their arts and culture because that’s where you find a sense of pride, you find reflections of yourself, that’s one of the things that we don’t have here.

Requiem For a Badjohn was staged at the National Cultural Center, Castries Saint Lucia in April of 2017

Q: You seem to have a passion for the performing arts as do many, but people often forego theirs after leaving Secondary School. As someone who continues to do work in this field, what other options can those with similar interests consider outside of school?

K: There are a lot of opportunities. I think though, when people think of the performing arts they only think of the performance aspect of it. To go out there and really survive in the arts you need to have more than one skill, for example I direct, I teach, I do production managemnet and I do stage management. So, you do more than one thing, it’s the same way everywhere else. You have to pay your dues. There’s also the amount of work you are going to have to do for free because you have to get your practical in as well as you building your name and your reputation. I see a lot of young persons going around saying “not for exposure” (referring to the ‘exposure not currency’ local campaign) and so forth, but I think we miss the point because I see every body jumping on that band wagon, but we have to be very careful… first of all if you’re an amateur you’re an amateur let me be very clear about that. You chose to be an amateur, you chose not to go an train yourself, you chose not to certify yourself, you chose not to do that, therefore if that’s the level you are going to hold yourself at, you’re going to be treated at that level. If you want to be a professional then invest in it, invest in it and pay for your training. There are a lot of clubs and certification courses you can do here, do them, pay the money and do it. And then start to build your credit within it, so then yes you can then look at a business or someone, a client and tell them this is my worth. That’s what needs to happen and once you have that skill you will get a job.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about Youth Studying Performing Arts and Culture?

K: The first group of students were students from secondary school and they were interested in continuing to look into the field as their employment, as their profession. And so, I continued with them, to train them in the various artforms, make sure to provide them with

various opportunities. Not only do you get training but you get real life opportunities to use your training whether it be in dance, drama, music and so on. And a lot of the work that we do has a cultural heritage component to it.

It is for the youth, the age range is about 14-25. So it really is for young people and their wants and needs really pushes everything that we do within those fields. We also do stage management, production management, we teach various parts of the different artforms and how to use performance to help bring about some kind of change or awareness.

Kentillia (upper middle) addressing four young performers during ‘ 2017’ rehearsals

Q: Do you and the group’s members share a vision when it comes to the future of Saint Lucia’s Art and Cultural industries? 

K: Yes, it’s about producing the next set of artists and producers, stage management and so forth. We want to make sure we have a world class arts and cultural industry in Saint Lucia that someone won’t come and say “well that’s how they do it in Saint Lucia apart from the rest of the world”. No it has to be on par – whether it is you’re in Trinidad, Jamaica, New York, London, everything must be on par, that is what we are working towards, so that that way too, you have more opportunities, more changes, more chances of persons getting big not only here but going international and being able to make their name and to develop.

And, What kind of work do we plan to do in the future? Same like we’ve always done. Right now we just came from two major projects so  we’re on a break because one of the things I encourage is that my group members also do their individual projects and have their individual activities, because I also want to train them to have leadership qualities and take the initiative. A lot of them do individual work at carnival time, so usually we don’t do anything as a group during this time. But as soon as that’s done we do social events, we start training again and then we get ready for activities later on in the year and next year. So we are hoping to do a play or a short film towards the end of the year.

Q: Are there any current or upcoming projects from yourself or the organizations you work with that you would like people to know about?

K: At this point in time, I think we have found the fruits of our labour, it’s actually starting to show right now. There are lots of performance based youth groups around the island. From Youth on Fire in Anse La Raye, to Kiddie crew. So I’m just happy that all of those organizations are working. And what people fail to realize is that we are not in competition with each other. There’s this misconception that we are, but we all work together, we help each other because we realize that we are trying for the same thing and there’s not going to be a situation where there is too many of us. It’s all of us coming together to help to build Culture and Arts in Saint Lucia as well as to provide a medium for young persons.

There’s a lot going on when you look at carnival bands, when you look at Kiddie’s carnival bands coming on, a lot of people who have created the bands are persons who went through some sort of training as performers, in Theatre Arts, music stage management, stage production and so forth. A lot of those persons who have bands now will tell you its in those kind of groupings they got their start. I think a lot of those young persons are becoming their own entrepreneurs, I’m very happy to see that.

In terms of me personally, I’ll be working with CVS to ensure that their summer youth platform program comes off and is as educational and entertaining as possible for the participants. And I’m working towards Nobel Laureate week, that’s my next big thing.



‘I Am Here’: An Interview with Keisha Scarville

Keisha Scarville, I Am Here, Salt. 2011. Image courtesy of the artist.

Keisha Scarville is a photo and multimedia artist who alters and reforms the perception of regular items through themes of transformation, migration and displacement. Raised by Guyanese parents, the Brooklyn based artist uses her unconventional art work as a means to express her nationality and homeland, which has allowed her to be exhibited in a wide number of locations, for example, The Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Studio Museum of Harlem. In this brief interview, Scarville discusses her intuitive direction in both art and photography as well the artistic process surrounding them.

There is a lot of depth in you artwork. Do you find yourself using a form of critical theory to express your work? Does it affect your creative process and thinking?

There is no particular critical theory that completely informs my work. My work is influenced by various writers and philosophies. I love the writing of Gaston Bachelard. His book, ‘The Poetics of Space’, has changed the way I approached photographing spaces and landscapes.

Keisha Scarville, Passport Series, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.

In the Passport series, you have touched on the issues of immigration through the eyes of two generations and through the art of mixed media. How has using this type of medium helped justify your artistic vision?

The series, “Passports” is an ongoing project where I repeatedly reinterpret my father’s earliest passport photo. I am interested in the aesthetics of a passport photo as a signifier but also the guidelines that inform how one positions and presents oneself within the frame. Through an interrogative process, I re-imagine the image of my father as a subject of a nation to forge a dialogue with the image. I use collage, paint, and other materials to transfigure and dislodge the unmoving stoicism of the printed image and create an alternate spatial narrative. In each piece, I respond to the shape shifting effects of immigration and my own personal history. I treat the photograph as a platform on which all these embedded and intertwined histories can be explored and layered.

Keisha Scarville, Passport Series, 2014 and 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

In the I am Here Series, I see that passport photo being represented again along with images of a second person. Can you tell us what this series is all about?

I am interested in the notion of home – how it is conceived, transformed, and lost. As a first generation Guyanese American, I often find myself occupying this hyphenated space where I don’t fully identify with being American nor am I considered Guyanese. I wonder what it means to create a space of belonging. What does it mean to designate a place/space as home? The “I am here” series is a personal journey towards claiming and understanding the conception of a home. In the project I explore how rituals, objects, spaces and the body can be visually excavated as primary sites of belonging. This series preceded the “Passports” project and was the impetus for developing that body of work.

Keisha Scarville, I Am Here, Dad’s passport, 2013. Image courtesy of the artist.

It seems that you are no stranger to photography either. How did you come about learning and developing your skills in photography?

I first learned photography while in high school. It was a transformative experience — holding a camera for the first time and looking at the world around me, deciding what to capture, and then holding those moments in my hands forever. I have been completely obsessed and fascinated by photography from that time. I went on to study photography in undergrad, as well as, focusing on photography and art therapy through graduate level classes.

Keisha Scarville, I Am Here, Bones, 2014. Image courtesy of the artist.

Do you see photography as a way to establish a new perspective in the art of storytelling and capturing moments?

I don’t think of it as new, but an alternative way of conveying narrative. I think people have always used photography to visually communicate stories. Now, more people have access to image-making devices. With the abundance and overwhelming speed at which we can produce images, my concern becomes how we read these images. Like all forms of communication, we need to be able to develop a method to take careful consideration of what images do, how they operate, and how to deconstruct/interpret the narrative.

Keisha Scarville, Mama’s ClothesSeries, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

In an article for Vice Magazine, you spoke about the search of identity through imagery in a collection of photographs called Mama’s Clothes. How did you feel about this art piece and what would you like viewers to take from it?

In the series, “Mama’s Clothes,” I explore the experience of absence and the camera’s role in visualizing what cannot be seen, but felt. I explore the paradox of abundance within absence and the phenomenology of space. In the photographs, I present my body cloaked in my deceased mother’s clothes. I am interested in how the clothing can be transformed into residual, surrogate skin. In the series, I am looking at ways I can facilitate and construct a visual place where I can conjure her presence while using my body as a medium.

Keisha Scarville, Mama’s Clothes Series, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

Also in this same series, the usage of clothing had a strong symbolic meaning. Most of your work weighs heavily on the contextualized meaning placed on everyday objects, which is not as subtle in most cases. Do you think this unique feature differentiates you as an artist?

A great deal of my work focuses on the biological, historical, and symbolic references of objects. I did a two-person exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) entitled, ‘Surrogate Skin: The Biology of Objects’. This project and exhibition allowed me to showcase the elements that inform my art practice.

Keisha Scarville, Mama’s Clothes Series, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist.

What final thoughts would you like to leave for young artists and photographers alike?

Break the rules, read as much as possible, and remain curious. 




Scarville is currently hosting an exhibition at the Contact Photo Gallery, Toronto, ‘An unassailable and monumental dignity from September 21st– November 18th.

For more information on Keisha Scarville, kindly visit her website

A (2017) Take on Toni Morrison’s Beloved

Much of the joy of reading is tied to the exposure one gets to purposeful, reflective stories and delighting in creative story telling. Now twenty-five, I find myself eager to read not only for enjoyment but also to find stories that enrich my spirit and mind as a Caribbean woman moving through the world. (And now that I am looking for any and everything to write about – because I just want to write and write some more… to hopefully one day be great at it) I thought a recent book I read made for a good challenge and topic. Below is a synopsis including my thoughts on a recent read but a 30 year old Toni Morrison classic.

Loaded. Important. Spell binding. Toni Morrison’s Beloved receives no stars from me because it defies the commonness of star ratings and exists outside the classifying lines of “fictional novels”.

Heavy with themes of slavery, race, home, guilt, love, community and identity, Beloved follows the story of Sethe, a mother of four in 1873, who was put in the position of sending her three young children (two boys, and a “crawling baby girl”) off in a wagon in order to have them escape the perils of “Sweet Home” and its slavery. Swollen with her fourth child still in the womb, Sethe later flees “Sweet Home” on her own, to reunite with her children and to live in freedom.

Following a set of events, including delivering Denver, her second daughter and last child in a sinking boat, Sethe eventually makes it to freedom; a two story house referred to as “124” on Bluestone Road in Cincinnati Ohio, inhabited by her mother in law, “Baby Suggs”, and Sethe’s children. In this corner of Cincinnati, the freed lives of blacks are full of tenderness, love, determination, and chants of hope, all the things Sweet Home was not Sethe realizes, but for her the joy of the place is short lived. A disturbing encounter leads Sethe to murder her first daughter in a desperate act of protection, marking the beginning of the demise of the once haven, 124, which later becomes haunted by the baby’s ghost. The house, which was once a hub for the community turns into a place of scorn.

Later, in various forms of abandon Sethe, Denver and Paul D, another sweet home runaway who wanders into the picture at the beginning of the novel become the only three inhabitants of 124, excluding the ghost. Paul D presents to Sethe a new opportunity for something other than the seeming alienation that has eclipsed her life, but this vision is seared when they come home one afternoon and find a young, ailing girl who goes by the name “Beloved” on a stoop infront the house. It is hinted throughout the story that the girl may be the ghost of Sethe’s dead baby in human form. This welcomed intrusion (oxymoron intended) sews, plants and rains uncontrollable things into 124 that leaves its members emotionally hypnotized.

Beloved is an uninhibited peer into America’s history. Stripped of flowering, the language is raw, simple, yet fluid in the way of the most intoxicating poetry. Nonlinear, the events of the novel are revealed as the plot moves back and forth from present to past tense effortlessly.

Additionaly, although Sethe is at the center of the story, the narrative moves freely from 1st to 3rd person between each character. Hence we are made to consider a difficult time and circumstance from various perspectives;

Sethe’s narrative forces us to face the realities of her experiences as a slave woman, the brutality she came under while working for her white slave owners, the traits of which were so dark, she preferred her children dead than to have them live through it. The way the guilt and aftermath of her actions rocked her own-better life at 124 with Baby Suggs, her children and their surrounding community shed light on the relationships and intricacies of Black communities held together by the willingness of its members to create lives worth living in a world designed to stump the very prospect of this out of the picture.

Sethe’s daughter Denver’s narrative invites us into the confines of the life of a first generation “free” African American. Having been with her mother “all her life”, Denver up until the age of 18 comes across a product of a grief stricken but in her own right resilient matriarch and her loyalty, loneliness and will prevail at various stages of the novel.

Paul D, an African American man’s fragmented journey sketches a map of hardship across America’s southeast. Here we have a male perspective, from his life as a boy, his humanistic desires contained to a cottage and field, a young man shackled and buried, then uncertain and lost once he is free, a grown man cold and hard, scouring for things he is not even sure exists.

Baby Suggs, an endeared woman even after facing the brunt of slavery in its varied forms; savage then lenient, folds into herself after witnessing white men with self-rightousness etched into their eyebrows, spread malice through and to the lives of “negroes” like an infection.

Sethe’s “crawling baby” a reminder of the innumerable, unlived, severed African lives. Children who were turned over into unconsciousness by parents who felt the life waiting for them in this world too filled with torture and violence, so death seemed a more desirable alternative.

This was my vain attempt at summarizing a work of Art with complexities that have been analyzed for 30 years now, the resulting variety of ‘conclusions’ conflict in so many ways that an attempt to put a finger on one true meaning would be futile. Nonetheless, Beloved is laden with meaning and story. The events of the plot are precise but it captures the essence of a time when the definitions of life and living were violently distorted. All in all, my rating of Beloved is that Everyone should read this book at-least once in their lifetime.

Unwater-ed Childhood Dreams (Part One)

What happened to your dreams?


We’ve all heard the stories; ‘success’ stories from the mouths of their owners on how it was they happened upon their gifts as children. How they saw MJ’s dimples, heard his confident, soprano vocals, watched his feet gliding across the floor and knew then and there “I want to do that.” Then, in that ambitious, unforgiving way that children move through the world, they learnt the lyrics to their favourite songs down to every echoed background riff, knowing that one day it would be them up on that stage… on that track or court, at that operating table, on that balance beam, on that diving board and “everyone will know what I am capable of”.

They took up the habit of showing and telling anyone who would listen what they could do. They even won over mom or dad, or both, a school teacher maybe? Or an aunt? The grey bearded sax player who performed solo at the bar and grill near their house on Thursday and Saturday nights? Guardians who looked on fondly, offering words on how superb they and their talents were and where it could take them. And for them these words did not only make their pillows softer at nights, but it also filled them with affirming thoughts and inner wells of positive reinforcement, “You have all you need. Ypu can do anything. Dream big. Nothing is impossible.”

For you however, your tale is different. Instead of encores and talks of the limitless paths there were to your dreams, what you heard were sometimes lengthy other times short, abrupt rhetoric about your dreams treading dangerously close to the edge that hangs matter-of-factly over ‘impossibility’. Words that followed condescending chuckles or curious glares wanting to know what lead you to this absurd conclusion that you could claim or declare something extra- ordinary for your life.

Still though, you shared more in common with your ‘fortunate’ counterparts than most realize as you went to bed with your dreams plopping hard with you on your pillow, raising up a sweet, bright cloud over your eyes and ears displaying all the things your life could be. And like the aforementioned, your inner voice picked up and absorbed every word from your overseers. You fought hard knowing they were untrue, but unknowingly there the words were wielding themselves deep into your foundation, a whisper whenever you attempted a step forward in your own direction. Now you move through your life wondering why and how your dreams are mostly mentioned in reference to your childhood.